Take Your Doctor’s Advice to Heart
Sometimes it’s hard for us to do as we’re told, even when we’re being told how to save our lives. Just ask former President Bill Clinton, who underwent bypass surgery last summer after complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath.
Although he jogged regularly and dieted, Clinton stopped taking the cholesterol-lowering medications his doctor prescribed and missed what many experts believe was a chance to prevent the spread of heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, Bill Clinton is not alone. Tens of thousands of people die, are hospitalized and have delayed recoveries each year because they don’t properly follow their doctor’s instructions.
When it comes to preventing or recovering from heart problems, following your doctor’s recommendations can make all the difference, according to James Calvin, MD, section director of cardiology at RUSH University Medical Center.
It’s not easy
“Patients need to know how their behavior—whether it be their sedentary lifestyle or their overindulgence in fatty foods—might affect their symptoms,” Calvin says. “They need to know why they should avoid certain things, how important their medications are, why their medications make them feel better, and how to monitor and regulate themselves so they can get help if trouble starts.”
For many people, all those recommendations can seem a little overwhelming. For example, a heart attack patient might be given a variety of medications, all with potentially different instructions about when and how to take them.
That same patient will also be advised about diet and the importance of following their own individualized exercise program, Calvin says.
Researching a solution
It’s a lot to learn, and sometimes just giving patients a booklet to read isn’t enough. Currently, RUSH University Medical Center is involved in a number of research projects to see if other patient education techniques work better.
For example, Calvin is helping to lead a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health involving 900 Chicago-area heart failure patients. The patients are divided into two groups. In one group, patients receive 18 newsletters containing information about heart disease from the American Heart Association. People in the other group have face-to-face interaction with group leaders and other patients through 18 group training sessions.
The goal: “We hope to determine whether or not the additional effort of teaching these specific skills makes a difference.”
Your partners at Rush
Besides conducting ongoing research, RUSH offers a number of programs, including those in preventive medicine and women’s cardiac care, to help keep people heart-healthy.
The Medical Center also offers a full assortment of tests to determine if people at risk for heart disease actually have it, as well as the expertise and latest technologies to aggressively treat disease when it’s found.
“We offer a full spectrum of programs to screen, counsel and manage patients before they have disease,” Calvin says. “If disease is present, we can provide a wide range of treatment options—everything from medications to noninvasive procedures to open clogged arteries to life-saving heart transplants.”
To schedule an appointment with a heart specialist, please call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).